There’s a lot to be said for well executed preparation. I had been warned beforehand, both by independent online research, as well as by the tour company (Turismo Kaulles), that the El Tatio Geysers would be a chilly experience, both because of the altitude (it’s at 4320m above sea level), and due to the time of the tour (the crack of dawn, before the warming glow of the desert sun has had a chance to cast its shadow). But when you’re cosy and toasty and quite happily ambling between the 80 or so geysers and “fuma oles” and generally steaming holes in the ground, while everyone else in your group is wishing the tour is over, or running back to the comparative, but not much warmer, comfort of the bus, you can’t help but feel a little smug.
I had never visited a geothermal field before this trip (I don’t think…now that I type that, I feel a strange sense of deja vu…) and while reviews online had been mixed, I have a feeling those who weren’t so impressed by them, were the ones who came underprepared. Maybe I’m just easily pleased, but I thought the El Tatio Geysers, located about 90km from San Pedro de Atacama, were something of a visual spectacle – the way the clouds of steam flirted with the morning sun, the occasional eruptions of boiling water from the numerous openings to the earth’s depths, and the crisp chill of the Chilean air adding to the immersive sensual experience.
The 10,000 Chilean peso entrance fee may have been a little steep, since there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of maintenance required, but I reckon the El Tatio Geysers are well worth a visit, even if it means a 4am wake up call.
For the record, clothing wise, I probably had a slight advantage in that I had my snowboarding base, mid and outer layers with me, and also a spare jacket, since I’d just come from a week in the mountains. To break it down, I wore a tank top, a Merino wool crew sweater, a puffy mid-layer, a regular hoody and a Goretex shell designed from spring skiing. For bottoms, I had a base layer, with sports leggings, thick woollen socks, and Dubarrys (up to the knees). I also had spring riding gloves, and my riding scarf, but wore a cap instead of a hat, since I had two hoods. Toasty AF.